Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Opportunity

I’ve written and thought the word opportunity a lot this last several days. We got to do sadaqa to folks that were asking for help. Yusuf was in charge of sadaqa on our making sure we did it often. He was sometimes questioning why a person was so poor or had a certain handicap I imagine while thinking there were others nearby with seemingly plenty. He was sometimes a bit scared to give the sadaqa. I did it with him or was never far away. I said thank you each time and made sure Yusuf heard. I explained to him that we say thank you for the opportunity to do something good. 


There are opportunities to do something good everywhere.  We tell the kids if you have something you have enough to share.  It’s a lesson I’m working on internalizing. 

Shukran!

We had our annual WP trip with our friends and their family. We had been planning it for about a year and we all very much look forward to it for just as long. 

Over the years we’ve had lots of conversations with our friends about parenting and the things we want to expose the kids to. Putting them in situations where they see how different people live has always been high on the priority list. 

This year our destination was Cairo.  We’ve taken the kids abroad on these annual trips before. Those trips were great, but this was further away and different and less sheltered. It wasn’t a beach vacation or a resort. Egypt is hot and crowded and there are people that are well off and people that aren’t everywhere. Rich and poor and everything in between. And they’re TOGETHER.  It’s inescapable and at times in your face. I’m sure the kids noticed and experienced this as we were constantly in situations outside our comfort zone.  

We had an amazing day at the pyramids, being with the kids and seeing something 5,000 years old. Going to the pyramids was more than just a memorable experience. There was something that can’t be imagined. Seeing them in person and touching them made you appreciate the grandness.  It was a different experience that I’m glad the kids had. 

We also had a fantastic day going to Fayoum, an oasis town, that started out underwhelming, but ended up with an awesome pottery school experience and amazing sunset. We somehow navigated to a small and hot school in the middle of a very small town where they made pottery by hand using a very old fashioned pottery wheel that was spun manually. The kids each got to make a pot with a teacher helping them. The kids got that tactile experience and then got to see the beautiful stuff made by hand in this small, hot pottery school.  As we drove away we saw young kids in old, dirty clothes playing soccer and clearly having fun in front of a gorgeous mural painted on the side of a regular old building. Beauty is everywhere. It was hard to miss here. I don’t know that it is explicit, but I believe the kids internalized what they saw and experienced; beauty is all around. And to top it off we saw the sunset of a hundred different colors while standing next to a huge lake in the desert. How could all that converge?  It doesn’t even make sense to me as I write this. But I realize this amazing scene happens every day!  I guess I just need to open my eyes wider. 

We also took the kids to the Egyptian museum and looked at the artifacts that were so old and so well preserved. They saw mummies and I think were kind of amazed despite being very hot. We took opportunities to point out how differently they lived then. We saw their tiny royal bed. We saw their primitive royal toilet. We saw their jewelry. We saw there rudimentary medical equipment. We read signs and notes how young people were when they died and noted that some died of diseases that are now far from fatal. 

We were sure to point out all the things the kids had to be thankful for every day. 

There was a large religious component to this trip as well. Doing ziyarat at Rasul-Husain was a high priority for us. We made sure the kids knew that. And we showed them by making it among our first destinations each day. We visited many masaajid and other ziyarat as well making sure the kids understood just a fraction of the context. Hopefully, we all appreciated even just a small piece of the importance theses places have for us. It was hard not to feel...I can’t articulate what, but it was a feeling that I can best describe as satisfaction. We were sure to remind the kids and ourselves how lucky we were to be there and doing these things. We made sure that little time passed between saying and thinking Alhamdolillah. 

After a masaajid tour we went to Jamea Juyushi on a hill and did namaz there. After, we took in the view of the pyramids, the masaajid of Cairo, the old city, and part of the new city. It was very cool to see the really really old next to the really old next to the sort of old next to the not very old all in one view. 

Our trip was wonderfully rearranged when Moula announced he would visit. We were amazingly lucky to be there. Other people were trying to get to where we already were and they couldn’t. 

We got so much barakat for being in the place where Moula was. We went through lots of efforts to ensure we took advantage of this stupendous opportunity. 

We got to do deedar. Of course we’d get to do deedar; Moula was there. We got to watch Moula do ziyarat multiple times and we got to do namaz with Moula in three different masaajid. We got to do qadambosi!  Alhamdolillah. Alhamdolillah. Alhamdolillah.

There was a lot of sitting and waiting and not knowing what we’d be doing tomorrow. And it was all well worth it. I think of my reaction to each time we got to do anything and it was Alhamdolillah every time. I felt it. I said it. I made sure the kids said it and acknowledged often how awesome it was often. 

I was reminded of my brother’s ziyafat years ago. I remember him giving two teenage girls a pass to do qadambosi. It was the first chance they had in their lives and they lived in a place Moula is often. I was there with my 1 and 3 year old to do qadambosi that I thought to be a foregone conclusion. They were so so so happy and reacted in a way I vividly remember to this unexpected opportunity. They were overjoyed. It was so meaningful. It made me re-think my shukur for being with Moula this trip. I thought Alhamdolillah, but I imagine it was just a fraction of what these girls felt. There is more shukur to do. 

This taught me a lesson in shukur as I was trying to teach the kids about shukur. I realized that there is so much I take for granted without even realizing. No, not of course we would get to do deedar. Alhamdolillah we got to do deedar. 

Having shukur, I believe, is key to being happy. The more things I can find to do shukur for the more happiness I’ll find. More than anything, I want the kids to be happy. 

There are always many things to do shukur about. Even more than we realize. 

This was a great trip that I hope the kids will not only remember the experiences we had, but will carry with them these lessons of having and doing shukur that will help keep them happy for the rest of their lives.   I will certainly try. 


Alhamdolillah. 

Friday, February 03, 2017

Something Right

I had a another very proud dad moment yesterday.  Yusuf was running around on the playground and collided with another kid.  He had a minor injury to his wrist.  Alhamdolillah it was minor.  Zahra got a call and was able to be there in a matter of minutes.  Alhamdolillah for that too..  Amidst caring for him, Zahra asked him, "How's the other kid?".  Despite being uncomfortable and in some pain Yusuf responded, "Alhamdolillah.  She's fine".  He's 9!

Yusuf deserves the credit for having such an empathetic and caring response.  I like to think Zahra and me have something to do with it too.

There's a lot of...stuff...going on in our country right now.  Like many, I'm sure, it's gotten me down and made me doubt what I used to think was unshakable.  Yusuf's response, however, reminds me that there's so much to be hopeful about.  Yesterday at his school is just one small moment.  I believe it's indicative of a much larger way of interaction in a future that's not very far off.  I'm looking forward to more empathy.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday

I haven't posted anything in a while.  The longer I wait, the more profound I feel like my post needs to be and I don't write anything.  This vicious cycle has gone on for months.

I don't have anything profound to write, but I'm posting anyway because it's Friday.

I have a habit of re-reading my posts later and remembering how I felt when I wrote those words.  I want to remember how I feel right now.  The last several months I've focused way too much on the crappy stuff and have been too distracted to pay enough attention the so many great things right in front of me.  We have started a daily break before bedtime where the four of us sit together and say a couple things from the day we are thankful for.  Alhamdolillah.  It's not hard at all to think of stuff.  Alhamdolillah.

I like it as much for me as for the kids.  Until last night, though, I was doing it mostly as an example for Yusuf and Nooriya and totally missing the opportunity to try to really appreciate whatever.  Something changed for me yesterday though and I thought harder about what was GREAT, though it really wasn't hard at all.  I guess I was just more thoughtFUL.

This morning I listened to that oft used metaphor about the corporate ladder.  "Make sure your ladder is leaning on the right wall".  This ladder metaphor applies just as aptly to life.  Focus on the wall, Taher, and not the climbing otherwise you'll just get to the "wrong" place faster.

There'll probably always be some crappy stuff and certainly there will always be some stuff that's good.  And much more likely than not there will be lots of stuff that's GREAT.

Pizza tonight!  Alhamdolillah!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Vacation

Alhamdolillah that I get to go on vacation.  I get to see and experience things which make my faith more solid. My eyes open to more wonders which make me even more certain there is something more. 

Each trip away is special and enjoyable in different ways, but the one thing that every trip has in common is I come home at the end. And I appreciate coming home each time. 

One of the best parts of vacation for me is coming home at the end and rediscovering and re-appreciating everything that was there beforehand. 

Taher, don't wait for vacation to appreciate what's at home. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Clarity

The day before the weather was rainy and windy and just unpredictable. We told the kids "we'll see" over and over. The weather didn't clear up and we did take them to the beach. We immediately assessed that it wasn't the right conditions to be at the beach and headed to the pool...in the rain and wind. 

As we made the best of the beach-audible Nooriya and I played "catch the bracelet" underwater in the pool. There was a moment I saw her smile under the water through my goggles. I'm so lucky to have seen it so clearly.   I'm so lucky to have noticed the one of probably many smiles in the moment I wasn't able to see or do or hear anything else while under water. I think about the attitude to make the best and the little it took to elicit that smile...just being there. 

In contrast, the last 24 hours have been full of amazing experiences. They have been true vacation gold. We saw more stars than I can remember seeing last night. All the while we were in kayaks with glass bottoms seeing the amazing plankton in bio bay lighting up when the water moved. I couldn't stop looking at and admiring the water until I was distracted by the amazing sky...and then I was distracted by the water. 

Zahra captures it way better than I do. 

Today, I had the most idyllic beach experience I've ever had. The water was the perfect temperature, gentle, and crystal blue.   The weather was perfect and we had a small stretch of beach on this hard-get-to island seemingly just to ourselves. 

I hope these are the experiences Yusuf and Nooriya will remember forever. I will. 

But as I reflect on the last couple days, I realize this may not be what the kids remember.  This was an amazing experience, but it did require the kids to wait and be patient a LOT. And that's not the thing that comes naturally to them. 

They complained and complained loudly, but they also made the best of it. Despite the what must have seemed like random instructions to wait and to "not do that" and the many "talks" I gave them about attitude and shukur, they sometimes figured out how to have a great time doing whatever with whatever they had.  

I will remember the make-the-best-of-it attitude they made so clear to me. And I'm pretty sure they'll remember me being with them on vacation as much as the amazing experience we were able to give them this last day. 

Thanks Nooriya for smiling so much and alhamdolillah for letting me see it so clearly. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rainbow

I was up early and tired at the thought of going to work.  Imediately I was thinking about all the stuff I have to do once I get to work.

I rushed through my morning routine and started my drive to work.  I saw a rainbow.  It was faint at first and then became clearer as I focused on it.  It was beautiful and a great reminder to look a little closer.

And then...I saw a second rainbow!  Taher, sometimes you just have to open your eyes and look for the rainbow.  Look closely and there'll be more than one.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Ramadan

I've read and learned some things and that have had me thinking about what I want to focus on this year. I'm having a hard time finding a single word to describe it. The closest I can think of is "steer". It does a good job of helping me frame my thoughts about another topic, control. 

I recently learned about the importance of the perception of control and how that influences the brain. Specifically, the perception of control influences the ability to motivate ourselves. Basically, if you think and reinforce your thinking to believe something is not in your control then it won't be. For example, if I say to myself, "I'm not able to climb that mountain because I was born without being able to" I won't try to.  Instead, just framing this a bit differently, "I took one step, I can become strong enough to take another" can give me the motivation to be to be stronger.  If I believe I did it then I can do more. This realization has changed the way I will interact with Yusuf and Nooriya when trying to motivate them. 

The perception of control is an exercise in framing a situation. I'm realizing more and more that so much is in my control. There ain't no mountain....

I've also read a book that had me thinking about time and how we think about it. It also forces me to think that once we didn't count it at all. There are some words of the author I want to remember 

---
Consider the word “time.” We use so many phrases with it. Pass time. Waste time. Kill time. Lose time. In good time. About time. Take your time. Save time. A long time. Right on time. Out of time. Mind the time. Be on time. Spare time. Keep time. Stall for time. There are as many expressions with “time” as there are minutes in a day. But once, there was no word for it at all. Because no one was counting...And [then] everything changed.
---

As with so many times before in my career, I'm bogged down with work and I'm climbing out of some mental cave to get perspective on what's more important. Recently, I was witness to something in some one else's life that was way more important. He even showed me the state of his work and reminded me that wasn't very important. 

I've spent a couple days thinking carefully about what's more important and it's in my control to steer my thoughts to what's more important while I have time (since I can't help counting the time).